A Mideast Peace Optimist Speaks Up


SARI NUSSEIBEH, a Palestinian political scientist, was a force behind the Palestinian uprising. Mr. Nusseibeh was surprisingly optimistic in an interview, sharing his thoughts on recent events.

The pace of change has been so rapid.... How do you see things?

I actually think that the agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel is a real turning point.... There's been a radical change in the historical evolution of events in the Middle East, within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in spite of the problems.

You sound very optimistic.

If you take yourself outside of the context of daily events and problems, and you look at the wider picture, I think you cannot but be generally optimistic.

Of course I'm not saying that things will inevitably turn out well. It is always possible for something terrible to happen that will bring the whole thing down, that will make it collapse.

There seems to be a strong opposition ... to making the agreement with Israel work....

What we Palestinians have to do is make sure that the experiment succeeds, that we maintain our connection with the masses, that we keep them involved, that we do the best that we can to show them that this process can yield benefits. But certainly, if you go to Gaza today, unlike during the intifadah - uprising against Israel- at least you see some kind of satisfaction on the faces of the people there. The satisfaction of being free, at least in some sense, of the Israeli soldiers.

You've seen all the criticisms of the new autonomy ... and nothing seems to be moving except the police presence.

This is a situation of people who have come suddenly to take over things that have to be created, and that's extremely difficult. And to compound the difficulty, of course, we had no financial means in order to make things run.

Israel has not made things easy. The international community has not made it easy.

The international community has asked us to be perfect and to [create] perfect financial institutions in order to receive the funds that were promised us.

But we can only become perfect if we start, but we can't start as perfect institutions.

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